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Matt Dowson, UK
"The potential medical benefits are enormous"
 real 28k

Elizabeth Genders, Germany
"I don't think it will be able to cure all the diseases it claims"
 real 28k

John Gillot, UK
"In principle it is a very good thing"
 real 28k

Benjamin Mossop, UK
"Private companies should not have the right to control this"
 real 28k

Dominic, France
"They are playing God"
 real 28k

Tania Sanuye, USA
"There is a profound difference between discovery and invention"
 real 28k

Monday, 26 June, 2000, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Decoding Humanity: Who will really benefit?

The first draft of the entire 3 billion letters that make up human DNA, the book of life, has been completed. It has been hailed as science's greatest ever achievement but how should this information be used?

Researchers promise exciting medical advances but unravelling the book of life also unleashes ethical concerns.

Who should own this knowledge and how should it be used? Should the genes of life be patented? Should employers and insurance companies have access to your genetic blueprint?

We have been taking your phone-calls and emails on the subject LIVE on BBC World Service Radio and BBC News Online.

Select a link below to watch or listen to Talking Point On Air

  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    Your comments since the programme


    The ability to record the code of life unleashes a Pandora's box

    Michael de Whalley, King's Lynn, England.
    Knowledge of any form can be used wisely or squandered. The discovery of the human genome is without doubt the start of a new revolution. The Wright brothers could never imagine that their invention of powered flight would lead to the bombing of Hiroshima or mankind walking on the moon in the same century. The ability to record the code of life unleashes a Pandora's box. Ultimately we will understand the code of life itself. I think the question should be is the human race mature enough to handle the knowledge once thought to be only possessed by God?
    Michael de Whalley, King's Lynn, England.

    It all sounds incredible that science can advance so far in such a short space of time. I only hope that the new technologies will be used for medicine in a good way, rather than just for profit.
    Jack Fairweather, Dumfries, Scotland

    In the end, profits will dictate how the DNA decoding will be used. It will benefit a few at the expense and freedom of many.
    Edward Foss, Colorado Springs, USA

    Deciding what to do with humankind's genetic code is the ultimate test of our "Code of Ethics".
    Eric Bergey, Sweden


    We should encourage, understand and control the application of new discoveries for the benefit of all

    John Brownlee, England
    Understanding the basics of the Genome is but the tiniest first step on a new road of understanding of what we humans and all other life forms are made. The years of this new century will see an explosion of knowledge and understanding which will profoundly change our view of ourselves forever. We should not fear, or ban, investigation and experimentation; rather we should encourage, understand and control the application of new discoveries for the benefit of all.
    John Brownlee, England

    If we do not use science to understand, we are endangering the human population. Maybe not now, but in 10, 20 or 100 years, we as a species will be challenged. The outcome will be determined by the science we do today.
    Mike Hall, USA


    The fundamental issue in this debate is not initially what such a monumental discovery can or will be used for, but who will have the power to decide

    Benj'min Mossop, Britain
    I don't think that you have to be a scientist, economics specialist or sociologist to understand that the fundamental issue in this debate is not initially what such a monumental discovery can or will be used for, but who will have the power to decide.

    The decoding of the human genome is certainly a landmark in scientific endeavour. However, it does throw up some profound issues for society; for example, what is viewed as a "normal" human being. Our perceptions of normality are shaped by our culture, therefore, is there not a danger that we will irreversibly manipulate the genetic makeup of our unborn children, to fit into our own ideas at that time?
    Magdeline Bolger, London

    Unless governments force all the genetic research companies to merge into a single organisation and co-operate with government planners then I don't think this potentially revolutionary knowledge can be used to benefit more than a select few. The consequences could even be negative and that is a risk that humanity should not be taking.
    Benj'min Mossop, Britain


    All this noble talk of curing illnesses with the splendid discoveries just does not wash with me

    Mohansingh, India
    The apartheid regime in South Africa tried to use genetic engineering techniques to eliminate its black population. Hitler had the best Deutsche scientific brainsat his disposal. How could we be sure we might not end up with another Hitler with the genome directory? All this noble talk of curing illnesses with the splendid discoveries just does not wash with me.
    Mohansingh, India

    It's coincidental that we're talking about the Human Genome Project: as a student in Year 11 in Australia, I've just finished studying Brave New World, and Gattaca was shown on television earlier tonight. I suppose, looking at the sources that have coloured my opinion, it's not surprising that it's so oppositional.

    Even when you offer only a glimpse into the potential of a person; is it not only likely, but a natural development, that this "potential" would be used as an indicator for potential employers - the development of a society where one's position is determined by an inescapable genetic makeup. A genetic makeup that is accessible via a drop of blood, a strand of hair, a toenail, a shaving of skin, no less. As Vincent put it in Gattaca, they'll have discrimination down to a science.
    Alan Wu, Australia

    Your comments during the programme


    The truth is that we really do not know the full degree to which genes determine destiny

    Dr. Chris Rudd, USA
    Two points: firstly, patent rights do not designate ownership, but rather the short-term application of the new sequence. After 17-20 years, that application is transferred to the public domain, just as with any new drug. Secondly, it is interesting how the publication of the human genome sequence is opening up again the old debate of "nature vs nurture". The truth is that we really do not know the full degree to which genes determine destiny.
    Dr. Chris Rudd, USA

    The race to discover the genetic code should not be done fast and cheap. Mistakes will and have been made. Thank god we have public funded research like NIH. The private company will get to the finish line first. But the mistakes will take years to correct.
    Lawrence Savoy, USA

    In terms of genetics, patent applicants in US must identify NOVEL DNA sequences, specify the PRODUCT of these sequences and how this product works in nature and ENABLE a professional in the field to use the sequence for the stated purpose.
    Riz Rahim, USA

    Whilst I think that the mapping of the genes is an amazing development. I can't help but thinking that we are learning more than we need to know, could we soon become slaves to DNA engineers, with them alone deciding our future development.
    David Thompson


    It offers wonderful prospects but I am afraid of the distorting effects of commercial exploitation and short-term interests.

    David Kinston, Australia
    It offers wonderful prospects but I am afraid of the distorting effects of commercial exploitation and short-term interests.
    David Kinston, Australia

    From the ethical point of view, I cannot help wondering whether we are not pushing science beyond due bounds. In as far as genetics are used to alter the course of nature, humankind should note that our Creator never intended that we tamper with His blueprint. The consequences can be dire.
    Austin Brew

    My experience with the insurance business has shown me that their first priority is the reduction of the amount they have to pay out, not the quantity and protection they offer customers. Even though DNA knowledge cannot predict everything that will happen to someone's health, insurance firms should be prevented from accessing one's DNA. One's ill health is a risk that they cannot be allowed to sideline as it is the nature of their business to protect against that over which we have no control.
    Stephen Austin


    The potential benefits involved are enormous and should be weighed up

    Matt Dowson, England
    There will be people who try to subvert this knowledge for their own ends. But the potential benefits involved are enormous and should be weighed up.
    Matt Dowson, England

    The whole question here is - are we ripe for proper use of such information? Being able to create technology and use it is not the same as being mentally ripe. Therefore we should leave all genome manipulation alone for the time-being and keep it there for at least the next 10,000 years. Then maybe humanity will have grown enough to handle it.
    M.Toivonen Finland


    I'm very concerned about the "finders-keepers" principle being applied to the mapping of the human genome

    Scott Rankin, Australia
    I'm very concerned about the "finders-keepers" principle being applied to the mapping of the human genome. The argument that someone should own something simply because they saw it first should not apply to something so important. It's very reminiscent of colonial powers claiming other countries on the principle that they "discovered" them.
    Scott Rankin, Australia

    Your comments before the programme

    This could definitely be one of man's greatest scientific achievements. But the whole idea of patenting and corporate control over all or parts of this is a very frightening prospect. Something HAS to be done to stop this scenario from happening. One possible solution would be for all the countries in the world to be represented in a global non-commercial and non-political and non-religious body who has the responsibility over the human genome information.
    Russell Hamill, Exeter, UK

    We are in uncharted territory and should move cautiously. Both public and private parties (each with their own agenda) need to participate in establishing ethical principles and a means to ensure these principles are followed. The race to unravel the genome is nearly finished. Now the harder race (to resolve these issues) begins.
    Barbara, Philadelphia, USA

    The history of medical ethics is one long slope - a steady slope but NOT a slippery slope as many would have us believe. Human anatomy was painstakingly learned over the objections of ethicists who claimed autopsies to be incompatible with human dignity. Early microscopes were vilified as distorting God's creation. Science is merely the systematic study of the natural world, and what science CAN do, science WILL (and should!) do. Slow and steady down the long slope to greater understanding of our world.
    Donnamarie Leemann, Switzerland

    The benefits of medical research such as say, interferon, penicillin, anaesthetics or even clean drinking water have yet to percolate to the poorer sections of human society. The chances of any benefits that may accrue from the opening up of the genome directory, I am afraid, will remain the exclusive preserve of the rich and the resourceful.
    Mohansingh, India


    We are at the beginning of a great journey

    Duncan Borthwick, Scotland
    In a hundred years time, we will look back nostalgically at the quaintness of this whole episode - the genome project is to biology what working out the periodic table was to chemistry. We are at the beginning of a great journey.
    Duncan Borthwick, Edinburgh, Scotland

    The Genome Project should be offered to all and not at a price. Human DNA is a part of nature and shouldn't have a price when the results that it will bring will benefit all of mankind. What if the internet had been under the same nature as this project then the world would have taken a lot longer to gain the advantages of the internet generation.
    Scott-Lee Nichol, Lonon,UK

    I congratulate the scientists. No stopping! We do not 'know enough'. Busting the genetic code marks the beginning of the end in our quest to understand the most complicated animal, the human being. Let the discovery continue.
    Solomon Seyoum, Seattle, USA


    The suggestion of patenting is insane! You can't just patent anything that's discovered in nature regardless of how much time or money was spent in doing so.

    Alan Edney, UK
    The suggestion of patenting is insane! You can't just patent anything that's discovered in nature regardless of how much time or money was spent in doing so. I mean, why doesn't someone patent electricity or water? Why stop there even, why not patent the entire periodic table! There's sure to be a bob or two to be made in it.
    Alan Edney, Kent, UK

    The human genome is human property, no matter who was the first one to unravel it. If Insurance companies start using genetic material from people as a basis for rates and premiums, it will be another example of their scavenger's attitude towards their customers. Should we not start changing those attitudes before reaching the depths and secrets of our inner genetic matter?
    Ernesto Chavez, Guadalajara, Mexico

    I'd liken the human genome work thus far and the expectations we hold for tomorrow with the technological milestone achieved with the successful deployment of atomic energy. The question foremost in my mind is...Will God's children handle this powerful knowledge wisely?
    Oliver Werthwein, Edmonton, Alberta,Canada

    Why is everybody so hyped up about the fact that a rough draft of the human genetic is going to be released? I think that the only reason that the biotech groups have decided to get everyone so hyped up about the whole deal is because they are running out of money and public interest is waning considerably.
    Kamneev Singh, Canada

    When will people realise that scientific discoveries are not for sale and that they should be benefited by all? People who see these amazing breakthroughs as a direct insult to religion should take a step back and look at the medical implications they provide.
    Mark Pollock, UK

    If these codes can make living beings healthier and more intelligent, then why not? Only people who will not proifit from the human genome research are those who are opposedto change. Science presents both good and bad opportunities to exploit.
    Rahul Vaidya, USA


    I think surgery will be looked back on as a crude implement of healing

    Roger Sayer, USA
    Genetic engineering is the greatest in a long line of human achievements. It's already beginning to revolutionise medicine and I think that if we could look into the future, we would be amazed at the possibilities. I think surgery will be looked back on as a crude implement of healing. Genetically engineered drugs will do everything.
    Roger Sayer, USA

    Initially such technology will benefit the rich and well connected as is always the case but eventually the "trickle down" will reach us all and I believe it will improve the health of all mankind.
    Don Skinner, Australia

    The human DNA genome IS being made available to all mankind. It is its annotation that is in dispute. As for whether public efforts can make better use of the information vs private companies, the public project spent ten times the money that Celera Genomics did, and is coming last in the race to assemble the genome. Private enterprise beats government bureaucracy every time.
    Joe, Nokesville, Virginia, USA

    It is insane to think that these companies should give up anything they discover to the "World Community." Why is genetic medicine any different to any other kind of medicine? These companies that decoded the genetic sequences did it for one reason alone, capitalism. They did not do it for charity. The world is motivated by money, unfortunately. Take away the prize, you take away the reason to work.
    Dan Cutts, Houston, TX, USA


    Who will benefit? The people with the most money and the American Government, as usual

    Jason, London, England
    Who will benefit? The people with the most money and the American Government, as usual. Patenting the human gene is a joke and means that those who can be helped the most with developments from the genome will not get aid.
    Jason, London, England

    We stand on the verge of perhaps the greatest scientific discovery, yet this is to be sold to the highest bidder, not for the good of all, but to increase the profit of a company. If the DNA code was handed to the UN and made available, all companies could begin to formulate revolutionary medical cures, rather than one company making one drug and charging extremely high costs since they will have a monopoly on DNA related materials.
    James Blair, UK

    Science will always be supported by me, for the benefits it can provide. But we should know by now that there is another side to it, and should NEVER forget or ignore the existence of it. I myself do not want to live through something that resembles scenes from the "Alien resurrection" - if you catch my drift...
    L Evans, UK


    National Health Services will be in severe financial trouble if they have to pay more to the companies that make the drugs.

    Anne, London, UK
    I am all for the decoding of the human genome but when I heard that private companies were patenting genes I was appalled. At what time did they "invent" these genes? I don't like the idea that huge biotech companies will make huge profits at the expense of the medical treatment of the people who can't afford the extra cost of the drugs. National Health Services will be in severe financial trouble if they have to pay more to the companies that make the drugs. I feel that there will be a few very rich directors not too long for now.
    Anne, London, UK

    It seems to me that money talks everywhere these days. The human genome will be for sale, like anything else, to the highest bidder, without regard to their ethics or end game. George Orwell was right, Big Brother is coming, may already be here...it is multinational, for profit, in bed with government, and totally unconcerned with us as private people...we have become a publicly traded commodity.
    David Price, San Diego, California, United States


    The human genome is God's code, his intellectual property. As long as we remember that, we should do with it what we please

    Laurence Green, Sheffield, UK
    The most striking aspect of decoding the human genome is its incredible complexity. But as always we hear words like "evolution" banded about. How many of us believe the browsers we are used were created through time and chance? Or which of us see intelligence at work? The human genome is God's code, his intellectual property. As long as we remember that, we should do with it what we please.
    Laurence Green, Sheffield, UK

    We look back in disbelief to the times when people were burned at the stake as witches or warlocks for having some knowledge of the healing powers of herbs and other natural medicines. What then will the people think of our present day "witch hunters" and "doom and gloom merchants" years from now?
    Clive Jevons, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, UK

    I cannot understand the number of e-mails stating that without private companies pushing for patents and profits, the sequencing of the human genome would be years away. There is a tight race between the academic, published research and its parasitic and inaccurate private competition. Personally, I think it is all perfectly clear. The good folk at the Sanger Centre are the Skywalkers and the biotech companies the Darth Vaders. That's all we need to know.
    Dave, Bolivia

    I don't trust the establishment nor do I fear the creation of a master race. However, there is the awful possibility of creating or changing us into a sub-race that will think and perform exactly as they wish us to. This is way beyond "1984" but with the sick leaders we have today, it's very possible.
    Richard, USA

    The human genome project is a collaborative effort of many research institutions, universities, private and public labs from all over the world. Being "human", everyone has the patent right and yes it should be public information, if not to be used in cloning humans.
    Mekonnen, USA

    As Ethics and Public Policy Advisor to a large-scale genetics firm in Silicon Valley, I am not entirely happy with industry conduct and aspirations. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the public needs to play an ever larger role in sharing the costs, enjoying the benefits and monitoring the conduct of private biotechnological interests. I am encouraged that some future-looking firms are moving in this direction.
    Dr. Joseph Lough, Ph.D., Berkeley, CA USA

    Generally more good will be done by the research but it must not under any circumstances be used commercially or for discrimination. Governments should see to this.
    Suyash Misra, Chennai, India


    Humans are by nature curious, and we should not stop learning

    Phil W.
    Humans are by nature curious, and we should not stop learning. I see nothing wrong with wanting to know this information, but once we are aware, the information should be locked away in a nuclear bunker, until we have agreed by majority how we want to use this information. It should be owned by the Vatican and the United Nations, which while not perfect, are better than nothing, and fairly represent most of the human race.
    Phil W

    This information, obtained with much effort from the scientific community, belongs to the world community as a whole. Any scientific discovery that benefits humankind should not be hoarded or kept shut-up for exclusive, profit driven interests.
    Robert Potter, Hilo, Hawai'i USA

    I believe that, my DNA belongs to me. And not anybody who is able to merely decode it. So, here I claim all copy rights to my DNA. And if you use it without permission, expect a lawsuit...
    Mario, Webster USA

    Sequencing of the human genome is a very long-term piece of research, going back many years. The vast majority of the work has been done in open research, either publicly funded or through the University system with results being made available at each stage. For companies to come in at the last moment, using published techniques in a race to sequence the whole gene so as to patent it is an absolute abuse of the patent system.
    Ian Elsley, Uk


    They didn't invent genes, they just looked at them

    Andy, UK
    the idea of patenting genes is absurd, they didn't invent them they just looked at them, the work has also been carried out at government labs anyway so who gets the patent - the first person to apply? Commercial firms have been at the forefront of calls for government labs to share their information, yet are reluctant to share their own. Drugs designed to target specific genes can be patented as they always have been, but patenting the gene will stifle competition and research into more effective or alternate methods of treatment .
    andy, uk

    I wouldn't worry, most of the information is meaningless. Knowing sequences doesn't mean understanding what they do.
    frank, Cambridge

    The Genome is property of our species. Companies should be allowed to patent drugs and treatments derived from the research, but the basic Genome should be public knowledge. When an author writes a book they have copyright on the story, not the alphabet!
    Tom Riley, Cambridge, United Kingdom

    Let us not remove God from this whole issue. That the codes have been unravelled is the answer to the prayers of those afflicted with diseases that could be treatable with drugs that are likely to be developed from such knowledge. In my view, the codes should be laid bare fore all to see. By so doing, humanity can reap the greatest benefit from the codes.
    Kolapo Ajuwon, West Lafayette, U.S.A.

    Decoding the human genome will undoubtedly benefit all of humanity. However, it will benefit those living in affluent nations the most, and the elite living in those nations especially.
    C M Sanyk, USA


    The new treatments will be the cash cow for the multinational pharmaceuticals companies and will not be widely available

    Pete, Birmingham,UK
    The truth will only be known when the treatments made possible by DNA research hit the market. My guess is they will be the new cash cow for the multinational pharmaceuticals companies and will not be widely available. Also the treatments developed will be driven by the likely profitability not by need. Before this Pandora's box is open I want to know who will be held accountable for the injustice it will cause.
    Pete, Birmingham,UK

    Will all the pop-science pundits do a little more browsing through their Richard Dawkins before confusing 'DNA' with 'GOD'? DNA is no more fundamental than the 80,000-odd proteins it comes packaged with. The 'discovery' of the human genome is better understood as a description of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, which goes 'First there's an 'e', then there's an 'n', etc ...' - this description is only fundamental in that it describes the whole chromosome. It doesn't go anywhere near explaining it.
    Adam Hibbert, London, UK

    This information should be accessible to everyone at no cost because it's impossible to "decode" humanity.
    Andrej, Russia

    Of course commercial companies should be able to patent their discoveries. It is their work and investment that has brought about this achievement and therefore it is their right to recoup their investment. This project would have taken years if it had been left to charity or government funding. The patents don't last forever so in the long term, everyone's a winner.
    Toby, UK


    It is a sad sign of our time that everything is for sale and a subject for greed

    Robert, New York, USA
    To all of those people decrying the patenting of the human genome. You'll have a change of heart when you are stricken with some horrible disease and your only hope comes from a private company that has developed a drug under the security of patent protection. Remember that patents are generally only good for about 10-20years. I think this is a small price to pay for the advancement of medicine.
    Will, Canada

    I believe that corporations have no right to obtain patents on human genome. It is a sad sign of our time that everything is for sale and a subject for greed.
    Robert, New York, USA

    No one will benefit from having the human genome patented or restricted, if indeed this is even possible. The information should be distributed as widely as possible, so anyone with any ideas can act on them and perhaps invent a new treatment for disease. Any drugs made as a result of this information could be patented as normal, thus giving the incentive to do it in the first place.
    Rhys Trappett, Toowoomba, Australia


    The promised new treatments are most welcome, but they should be made available to all, not just a chosen few

    Albert Devakaram, Chennai, India
    Now that the human genome has (almost) been completely sequenced, I think it would actually be unethical if we did not go on to use the information to tackle horrible diseases. If this means a company makes some profit, then so what? These treatments will simply not appear unless there is private sector involvement in the research, production, and marketing.
    Alex Pinfield, London, UK

    I am optimistic about the benefits of decoding human DNA. If there are problems with the laws surrounding patents and cloning then they can be improved over time. We are all subject to the law - even the scientists. It is public debate that leads to better laws. We must tread a course that maximises the benefit of the decoding of human DNA.
    Nick Lewis, Birmingham, UK

    The promised new treatments are most welcome, but they should be made available to all, not just a chosen few. If the genes of life are patented, they will become the property of the privileged, like big business, whose sole motive is to mint money!
    Albert Devakaram, Chennai, India

    Patenting discoveries, as against processes, is a dangerous precedent in any field but combined with the potential to slow medical research it is criminal. The US in particular is complicit in this abuse of patent law because it contains the majority of biotech companies and is therefore most likely to gain from them.
    Dr Doug Ealey, Southampton, UK


    The doom and gloom merchants have always seen the downfall of humanity at every scientific achievement

    Douglas McLellan, Edinburgh, Scotland
    It has taken billions of years for humans to evolve. Tinkering with the human genome, as well as genomes in general, is one more blow against the stability achieved by natural evolution.
    Brian Kandel, Albany, NY, USA

    Patents don't last for a long time. Indeed, I would suggest that the patent period will be much less than it will take to develop any real use for the information. As was stated before, the danger is not from the scientists but from those who abuse the science. The doom and gloom merchants have always seen the downfall of humanity at every scientific achievement.
    Douglas McLellan, Edinburgh, Scotland

    This is a vital commercial venture. Perhaps the BBC could be encouraged to patent that part of the genome that explains the mystery of people who watch daytime television
    Barry Clements, London UK

    We hear lots of glib comments about how we should ban research into areas like genetics. But how is this ban to be enforced? Who will pay for the police, the monitoring, the surveillance needed to enforce a ban? And how many people with genetic disorders will die because of a ban on genetic engineering? Knowledge may be expensive, but ignorance will always cost much more.
    Kevin Elliott, Oxford, UK

    My belief is that the DNA mapping project is designed to bring wealth to a very small section of our society. There may be other and altruistic reasons for the huge effort but the bottom line is that some wealthy organisations believe that they can get still wealthier.
    Ian Grant, Bucks, England

    The genome is the property of our species; while I agree with drug patents, this particular information should be released into the public domain. What drug companies and health researchers do with it from there should be patentable. If somebody develops a therapy based upon that information, fine, let them reap the rewards, but it's ridiculous in this case to give intellectual property rights on something as wide ranging and fundamentally important as this.
    Thom, USA


    The potential uses of the decoding of human DNA are too great to be allowed to be property of one corporation.

    John Cookson, UK
    While many of the pharmaceutical products and medical treatments we rely on today would never have been developed if there had not been a big potential profit involved. The potential uses of the decoding of human DNA are too great to be allowed to be property of one corporation. Whether western governments have the political will to act against such a powerful corporation (assuming Montsanto 'win') is another matter.
    John Cookson, UK

    How can anyone claim patent for a particular gene? It's in no way unique and has not been invented. Surely patents could only be acquired on the basis of how a gene is identified by the geneticists. A woman has already started court proceedings to patent her own body to prove the ridiculous nature of this situation. Lets leave the twentieth century behind and find ways to make this inevitable technology as beneficial to the human race as the laws of entropy will allow.
    Sam Gibson, UK


    The issue of discrimination is breeding mass hypocrisy. Insurance companies already discriminate hugely when calculating premiums

    Matt, Amsterdam
    My concern is that genetic information will primarily be used to categorise people into groups covering health, learning potential, athleticism etc and pre-determine our existence from day one. A sort of Huxley nightmare will appear in which our lives are mapped out before us, so that we can determine from birth our education potential, our career prospects, even down to the day we die and what we die of.
    Mark Lisle, Ulm, Germany

    The decoding of the human genome is a magnificent achievement for science, but for the human race it holds as many if not more dangers than benefits. The genome is shared by all members of our race. Portions of it should not be allowed to be patented. A company cannot own the rights to the genetic code of people's bodies as they are personal details.
    Matthew Illsley, Nottingham, England.

    It's a remarkable scientific achievement and will lead to revolutionary opportunities in the field of medicine and genetics. Urgent legislation is now required to prevent the potential for "genetic discrimination" and unethical genetic tinkering.
    Helen , UK

    The issue of discrimination is breeding mass hypocrisy. Insurance companies already discriminate hugely when calculating premiums. The question is whether society as a whole would be prepared to pay for those "less secure" members, or would the healthy members ignore them for a drop in premiums? I think we all know the answer.
    Matt, Amsterdam

    In my view, the right priorities should have been set. Globally, biotechnology should have begun with addressing the problem of HIV/AIDS. The application of such research would be enormous and practical.
    Grace Akello, Uganda

    The present emphasis on commercial profits and commercial profits alone, is depriving us of our humanity and undermining the very basis of human civilisation. "Man is an economic animal" is the foundation on which the exploitative, capitalist society is built. "Man does not live by bread alone" is oriental philosophy.
    Mohan Singh, India

    The only ones to benefit are the private biotechnology companies. The next step will be to patent their research, ultimately leading to the commercialisation of the human species and a world where 'who pays wins'. Science is currently advancing so fast that it is difficult for the public to understand what is happening, much less discuss the consequences.
    Paul R, London, UK


    Big Companies already metaphorically own us, but I'd rather not see a corporate logo stamped on any of my organs

    Derek O'Brien, Northern Ireland
    I am no anti-technological Luddite, but I do have concerns about individuals or corporations patenting parts of the human genome. I know Big Companies already metaphorically own us, but I'd rather not see a corporate logo stamped on any of my organs which benefit from the advances those companies may have made!
    Derek O'Brien, Northern Ireland

    My greatest fear is not the obvious one of creating GM humans, i.e. some kind of master race. Actually, a much greater danger is that knowledge derived from the human genome could be used in developing biological weapons (i.e. a GM hybrid virus or bacteria that is specifically designed to target people from a particular ethnic group). I doubt whether legislation will prevent such a thing happening. After all, murder is illegal but that doesn't stop people being killed.
    Jim Fish, UK

    I do not believe that this project of decoding humanity should be undertaken. It will open a 'Pandora's Box,' which will cancel out any kind of medical advances or discoveries; it means that the information could fall into the hands of the wrong people. Only God can decode humanity.
    Jeff, USA


    Human Genome belongs to the human race and should not be for sale.

    Vinod Dawda, UK
    Human Genome belongs to the human race and should not be for sale. However, knowing human greed for power it would not be long before future humans are genetically manipulated to suit the ideology of some megalomaniac. Brave new world is on its way for sure.
    Vinod Dawda, UK

    I have only one problem with this. The patent belongs to the originator of the human species and indeed all life, Almighty God! We presume on his creations at our peril. By all means let us use the intellect HE has given us to discover the secrets of life but we dare to steal his patent at great cost. The genome belongs to the entire human race without cost or profit!
    Steve Foley, England


    This genomic information will be most valuable in understanding the genetic diseases and designing new approaches to their therapy.

    Dr Riz Rahim, USA
    Just because we will soon know what a human genome is composed of, it does not necessarily we also would know how it works: they are two different things, miles and decades apart. This genomic information will be most valuable in understanding the genetic diseases and designing new approaches to their therapy. Ethical questions abound, as legal and regulatory measures try to catch up. Genetic profiles could be abused in unauthorised and unscrupulous hands, so the access to this information will have to be jealously guarded at all times. Patenting the genes is another uncharted area.
    The road we see ahead is a virtual minefield, and we will pick our way through with occasional stumbles and mishaps, but an exciting time nonetheless for all, particularly the medical scientists.
    Dr Riz Rahim, USA

    We still don't know what most of the DNA in the genome is there for. Most of it doesn't code for genes that are actively transcribed. The sequencing of the human genome does raise many ethical and moral issue, but for now it just gives scientists another tool to use in a battery to find the actual physical location of disease causing genes so that the bio chemistry can be better understood. The potential benefit of knowing certain information about a persons bio chemistry are overwhelming. We need greater education so that people can make an informed choice.
    Jen Woodhead, UK

    To the chap who said 'scientists are "us"; they are people with ethics, morality and judgement.' Well who do these people ultimately work for? Shareholders. They are no different to many of the rest of 'us'. They really don't have the power to make 'moral' decisions. If scientists really did have the 'morals' and the 'ability' to act, would we really have had the possibility of say nuclear war? Chemical war, nuclear pollution, ozone depletion? Etc etc.
    Zafar Nadeem, Sheffield, England


    A patent is only for a limited period but it will allow them to get a return on their efforts.

    James Cork, Cambridge, England
    The private companies that have mapped the human genome MUST be able to patent their methods and discoveries. A patent is only for a limited period but it will allow them to get a return on their efforts. Without the protection of patents this success would still be many years away.
    James Cork, Cambridge, England

    Finally, my life is catching up with my favourite reading material. Sci-fi and cyber punk have melded perfectly into the every day. (William Gibson and Neal Stephenson were right!) I'll actually be able to grow wings at will or change the TV channel telepathically in a few short years. Seriously, though, the implications are enormous and I do not think we, the proletariat, will have much say in what happens next. Big business and the pursuit of profit will govern it. I suggest everyone watch "Blade Runner" this weekend and say hello to the future.
    Catherine Penfold, New York, USA

    It's sad when people apply simplistic thinking to complex subjects. For example "my genome is my property". So what? As long as someone is willing to grant permission for their genome to be sequenced, progress will be made. In a world where foetuses are aborted for the convenience of the mother every day, are we really going to throw a fainting fit when a parent is told that their foetus has a genetic defect, and the choice of what to do is up to them?
    Jon Livesey, USA


    Knowledge has no colour, race or ethnicity and the knowledge in the so called book of life, the human genome, should only be used to fight diseases.

    Mahender Singh, Switzerland
    Knowledge has no colour, race or ethnicity and the knowledge in the so called book of life, the human genome, should only be used to fight diseases, if possible, psychological ones as well. I am not sure if we can harness the knowledge to have more tolerant, non-discriminatory and non-racist human beings. If it is possible, I would suggest that the whole humanity should own this information and not a few profit oriented establishments.
    Mahender Singh, Switzerland

    Patenting the human genome, or even charging for access to it, can only serve to hinder the fundamental reason for its decoding - the development of effective treatments. The end user pays the cost. It is understandable for Celera and others to try to recuperate the cost of their research. It is clearly unethical, however, to profit financially from holding the key to information that is so universally applicable. This can only serve to make future treatments expensive, and thus inaccessible to those that cannot afford them.
    Adrian Hunt, Oxford, UK


    The human experience is the pursuit of knowledge and the ethical questions as to its use

    Peter C. Kohler, USA
    The human experience is the pursuit of knowledge and the ethical questions as to its use. Who are we to suddenly declare "stop, we know enough"? Science continues to expand our frontiers and improve our lives. And the last time I looked, scientists are "us"; they are people with ethics, morality and judgement. In the end, it is up to us to use the knowledge they give us wisely. Fear mongering and "what ifs" accomplish nothing in such a debate.
    Peter C. Kohler, USA

    This will simply lead to the need for more and more legislation to ensure equality of opportunity and to guard against some members of society being discriminated against, based upon genetic information. The potential benefits are enormous, especially for families who are susceptible to passing on genetic defects which materialise in early life. The ethical and moral questions raised are also enormous and it will take more than codes of practice to ensure there is no misuse of a person's genetic code and to prevent wrong conclusions being drawn from the information.
    John, London, UK


    As far as I am concerned, my genome is my property and should be available only to those to whom I choose to provide it

    John B, London, UK
    Once again, the scientists are opening a huge can of worms with little thought to the practicalities. As far as I am concerned, my genome is my property and should be available only to those to whom I choose to provide it.
    John B, London, UK

    Although I agree with the principle of decoding genetic information for a greater understanding and advancement of the human body, I am troubled by the concept of what a perfect human should be. The danger, as always, lies not in the science itself, but what those who control the process choose to do with it.
    Paul Sluman, Brighton, England

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